The First of Shadows
The Riven Realm Book One
By Deck Matthews
How do you kill a shadow?
As a raging storm descends on the Blasted Coast, the crippled young rigger, Caleb Rusk, meets a stranger on the road. Little does he know that the encounter will pull him into a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear—and change the course of his life forever.
Meanwhile, in the Capital of Taralius, a string of inexplicable deaths have captured the attention of the Ember Throne. Second Corporal Avendor Tarcoth is tasked with uncovering the truth behind a danger that could threaten the very fabric of the Realm.
For anyone new to the blog and my reviews, you would be forgiven for thinking this was Deck Matthews fan page. It’s not, although I am indeed a fan.
About three weeks ago I came across Matthews via his varkaschronicles account on IG. He is by trade a designer and it shows in his posts which are quite eye catching, not to mention somewhat surreal because if I go off his posts alone, he’s reading, or has read, every book in my own library. That’s what first caught my attention. Then I saw an image of his map for the world – or continent – of Varkas (love me a good map!) So, I went to his website. He had a sample of this novella up and I liked it enough that I promptly pre-ordered it, and bought the two short stories he’d already released. I loved them both (and I am not a huge short story fan) hence the flood of ‘omg, I love Deck Matthews’ on this site recently. It’s true though. I do.
This novella marks the beginning of Matthews ‘Riven Realm’ series (I am unsure at this point how many books are planned, I hope it’s a few because I don’t want to stop reading) and gives us more depth to world of Varkas that he had started to reveal in his short stories. In ‘The First of Shadows’ we meet some great characters that I am very keen to get to know more about. We have the mysterious drifter whose opening scene so captivated me, the crippled Caleb Rusk – my favourite, I can’t wait to see how he grows! – the corporal Avendor, the sage Tiberius, the half-fey woman, Palawen and the Tanner, a veteran of the most recent Frost War.
I quickly came to love all these characters and Matthews has a great sense of pacing. He builds a chapter up, and then cuts you off to start a new one! He’s definitely got that whole ‘just one more chapter’ thing down pat. In fact, if I had started reading this at night, rather than at 11am in the morning, I think I would have been very late to bed!
And teasers. He’s great at teasing you with an idea, with some information that hints but doesn’t fully explain – yet – so you keep going, not just to find the answer but cause it’s a great story.
Matthews is all about the tension. And this only a freaking novella!
But we also have to talk about his endings. I think Matthews does endings very well. I loved the ending of ‘The Melding Thief’, and the ending of ‘The First of Shadows’ – o.m.g GIVE ME THE NEXT BOOK NOW! It is again one of those tantalising snippets that sets up the next book and has you hanging out for more.
If this is what his novellas are like, I cannot wait for him to start writing a Jordan-esque sized Varkas series (or at least ‘full-sized’), because this, THIS, is the type of epic fantasy and writing I live for. A world that is entirely its own. Varkas is a completely different world to earth and while aesthetically you can assign some imagery to a medieval Europe, the culture is clearly different. Honestly, think The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Stormlight Archives, even The Forgotten Realms in scope. All the (to me) great fantasy authors do what Matthews has begun to do here.
If you are a fan of Jordan, Sanderson, Brett, Weeks or Martin, then take my advice and get in on the ground floor of Deck Matthews career. I am sure it’s going to be a great ride!